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I want you to stop speed reading

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
2 min read

I want you to stop speed reading. I want you to not worry about how many books you’ve read and focus on the one that you’re reading right now. Speed reading is for panicking students and literary agents. It’s not for the likes of you and I.

On your marks…

I tried speed reading a few months ago. I’d never done it before, but I was worried about having not read enough this year and thought it might help me tackle my backlog of books. I got some advice off the internet. Hints, tips and techniques.

And then I set to it with gusto. I started reading and, it turns out, the internet was right. Before I knew it, I’d sped read my way through more than half a novel. It was incredible. Like lightning.

The problem was, I hadn’t a clue what was going on. Okay, I’d got a gist of things, but I was sure I must’ve missed out on some of the novel’s subtleties. Yes, I’d turned the pages, that much is true, but I didn’t feel like I’d really read the book. Not properly. Not like the author intended.

Speed reading felt like cheating. Speed reading is cheating.

It does neither reader nor author justice. What you end up with is an impression of something having happened. Pale paragraphs that you can never fully recall. Silhouettes of broken sentences.

That’s not how I want to read. It’s not how I want to be read.

Good reading = good writing

As a writer, it’s not enough to have read lots of books. You need to understand them too. More than that, you need to learn from them.

In an interview I did last month with prize-winning author, Edward Hogan, he described how he makes constant notes while reading, because: ‘I like trying to work out how good things are done.’

That’s exactly it. That right there.

Some writers feel like they can’t switch off when they read. I say why on earth would you want to? You’re not a normal reader. It’s your job to analyse and dissect other people’s writing. Go with it. Accept your fate.

Writing is craft and craft can be improved. Practice will help, of course, but so will quality reading. Reading that has your full attention. Reading that you care about.

There are many great books in the world. You’re not going to read them all. However, you can make sure that the books you do read get the time and focus that they deserve.

Don’t rush. Don’t speed. Enjoy.

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I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.